Category: Belief

I Blew My Top

When the Jade Helm 15 Facebook pages started popping up, I started feeling my blood boil. Texans, people who believe in the military, and all those most (self-proclaimed) patriots were suggesting that an all scale takeover (or at least a ‘false flag’) would be conducted by joint forces of the U.S. Military, I couldn’t help but want to yell “Bullshit” at the top of my lungs. To think that these people who continually shouted blind obeisance be the law of the land from September 11, 2001 until the day Barack Obama took office were now accusing every active duty military man and woman of murder, conspiracy and/or plotting a crime against humanity was a shock. No less, the shock that they did so with no hint of acknowledging the irony.

Funny, many a 9/11-Truther was just that out of fear of government, but many were simply left-leaning liberals and anti-war types who found the Bush Administration all too prepared to go to war with Iraq and somehow use 9/11 as a reason. As 2008 drew to a close, I have to believe that the anti-government folks remained anti-government but more left-leaning 9/11-truthers had to chose between “Hope” (Obama’s slogan) and the fatalism that tandem wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had on the American culture at large. I chose ‘Hope’ in a very tenuous way, convinced that Obama was the closest thing to hope America could get. But even then, the wars didn’t end quick enough for me; and I am guessing that they didn’t end quickly enough for the rest of the 9/11-Truth Movement. Regardless of how an individual made it into becoming a ‘Truther’ there is little denying that they were likely to end up as a Tea Partier, or perhaps a radical left member of the Occupy Movement, or perhaps a psuedo-survivalist Prepper (engaged in preparation for various hypothetical Armageddons). With many within these camps, the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’ were really one unified group known as the ‘Powers that Be’ (PTB) and most of the wrangling is all a show for the plebeian masses.

I opted out of said movements, none of which I was ever really an active participant in, though I kept the faith (and it was a type of faith) that 9/11 was an inside job (or something to that effect, depending on how comfortable I was with whom I was conversing at the time). I sought a degree in the Social Sciences and became fascinated with Social Psychology, groupthink, the concept of Confirmation Bias and Contagion Theory as it pertains to social networks. It was well over a year into my graduate degree before I applied a bit of Social Psychological analysis on myself. I was a poor, lower middle class kid in a Rust Belt state whose father was drafted during the Vietnam War and who was always told to avoid the military (by my dad, mind you). I was raised by a staunch Democrat and actually heard her, my Grandmother, insisting that the first Iraq War was more a political boondoggle than a legitimate and necessary political conflict. I grew up in America in an era of increasingly inflammatory political rhetoric and passed the time with my father watching Alien abduction dramas and reading about JFK assassination conspiracy theories. Essentially, I was primed to believe that 9/11 was an inside job since at least as far back as Operation Desert Storm.

Oh, the realization that a deeply held, and cherished, worldview was only a matter of social location and conditioning is hard in any case. In my case, I fought it. I did not want to accept that actual terrorists took down the Twin Towers. George W. Bush had nothing to do with it! Not even Cheney? What about Building 7? Even the structural insecurity of the towers and the discrepancy between the melting point of steel and the burning temperature of jet fuel, which seemed so thoroughly evident to the case for ‘Truth’ proved to be irrelevant. The Global Conspiracy that simply had to consist of the President, his cabinet, the Saudi King, Norad, several hundred military personnel, staff writers at New York Times, Associated Press, Scientific American, and all other major news agencies as well as every physicist and engineer in the world finally, effectively, ceased to exist for me.

Belief lost is mourned, no matter how counterproductive or damaging the belief may be.

Like a phoenix, however, the thirst for greater truth as to why conspiracy theories are so prevalent grew within me out of the ashes of my faith in the 9/11 ‘false flag’ and has led me to study the various causes (and effects) of conspiracist ideation (a fancy way of saying how people come to dogmatically believe in conspiracies).

It was with this background that I came across a post in a Jade Helm 15 related Facebook group that infuriated me. It was not related to Jade Helm 15 but, rather, to the Lafayette Louisiana movie theater shooting that occurred on July, 23rd and claimed that it was a false flag operation. As proof, the individual posted a link from the website Beforeitsnews that claimed that ‘crisis actors’ played eye-witnesses and concerned citizens. I won’t post the comments, or the Beforeitsnews article, but I will post my infuriated response below. After reading the article and seeing the ‘evidence’ it included (which consisted of looking up the Linkedin profiles of the eye-witnesses and quoting some considerably inflated sounding resume content to show that all of them were actors, media experts, major players in the oil industry, etc.) I felt compelled to vent.

After I deleted about 100% of what I first wrote (which isn’t fit to post here), I rewrote my response from the heart, and with significantly less profanity.

I wish I could pretend that this was all just harmless conjecture, but I know it is not. I was once like you, certain that the PTB were so vile that they were capable of anything. You think you are ‘awake’ but you are really just sheep wearing a different coat. I know, of course, because I was certain that I was ‘awake’ until I look back to find that all my worst suspicions either never happened or were the result of gross incompetence (the real ‘hidden hand’ is stupidity, it turns out). You may want to believe that every shooting is a false flag and every victim a crisis actor. Just because you don’t want to believe that people shoot up theaters (churches, schools, workplaces, or their own homes) does not mean that it had to be a false flag. Sorry. Call me a sheeple, call me an idiot, but I refuse to pretend that you aren’t dangerous misled people. I say this, so that when Jade Helm 15 ends and none of your fears come to fruition, I hope that some of you (even just a few) reevaluate why you were so convinced that the Illuminati (which apparently consists of every who is active duty military) is out to get you. Ask yourself why you thought those little stickers on your mailbox was code for FEMA camp pick-ups and detainment or death. Ask yourself why you believe what you do, and ask yourself if it does you any good, or if you are simply in a constant state of fear due to the constant change of culture and society. False flags have happened, sure. Governments, consisting of well meaning people or total self-serving idiots, will always screw over someone even as they may help others (but that is not guaranteed). Next time (and yes this type of freak-out will happen again), after JH 15 ends up being nothing more than a military exercise, ask yourself you are really ‘awake’ or just responding to the fear, the feeling of hopelessness due to the changing political climate, or just the need to make sense of a world that seems to make no sense. I know what your immediate response will be, what I hope is that you will consider this an invitation to rethink, pray, or meditate on this issue and why calling victims and witnesses to crimes ‘crisis actors’ may be the worst thing anyone can do in a tragedy. If you believe in justice, go straight to the people on the ground, wherever the crisis is happening and help them (maybe those ‘crisis actors’ are really just people, in a crisis). If you can’t be bothered to help another human being then your non-action is worse than any actions from the powers that be and you are complicit, whether you are prepping for some scary Illuminati FEMA bogeyman to come take your guns or just hate the President. Practice kindness, charity and compassion to all you meet, or admit that you are part of the problem.

I clicked send, knowing that if it were me reading my own post only a few years ago, I would have disagreed completely. Since then, my worldview has changed and it continues to change as the world does as Heraclitus warned that it would. I can’t really be mad at conspiracists, it wouldn’t be right. I can hope that they take my words, and try to consider them. Seek compassion rather than an ever-increasingly labyrinthine blame-game. Regardless of what anyone else chooses, I have made my choice.

Who Falls for Conspiracy Theories?

New research finds those on the political extremes are more susceptible than moderates.

By Tom Jacobs (Pacific Standard)

As we noted last year, belief in conspiracy theories is surprisingly common. So who is particularly susceptible to falling for these often-outrageous narratives?

New research from the Netherlands suggests the answer is people on the political extremes.

Those on both the far right and far left tend to “adhere to their belief system in a rigid fashion, leading them to perceive their political ideas as the simple and only solution to societal problems,” writes a research team led by psychologist Jan-Willem van Prooijen of VU University Amsterdam.

“Conspiracy beliefs feed into a core feature of political extremism, namely a desire to make sense of societal events through a set of clear-cut assumptions about the world.”

This in turn “induces them to perceive evil conspiracies as causal explanations for various events,” they conclude in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Van Proojen and his colleagues describe four studies—three conducted in the Netherlands and one in the United States. The latter featured 185 participants recruited online, who classified themselves on a seven-point ideological scale from extremely left-wing to extremely right-wing.

They then responded to six statements describing conspiracy-oriented beliefs about the recent economic meltdown. They expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with such assertions as “The financial crisis is the result of a conspiracy between bankers and corrupt politicians.”

As predicted, “belief in conspiracy theories about the financial crisis was endorsed by participants at both political extremes, and less so by politically moderate participants,” the researchers write.

Another study featured a nationally representative sample of the Dutch electorate. After the 1,010 participants rated themselves on an 11-point left-right scale, they were asked their level of agreement or disagreement with the statement “With the correct policies, most societal problems can be solved very easily.”

In addition, they were then presented with six conspiracy theories (such as “The political arena was infiltrated by oil companies when making the decision to go to war against Iraq”) and asked to rate them on a scale of one (“highly probable”) to seven (“highly improbable”).

The researchers found that “Both political extremes believe—more strongly than politically moderate participants—in simple solutions to societal problems. Moreover, belief in simple political solutions was significantly correlated with conspiracy beliefs.”

Van Proojen and his colleagues argue that “conspiracy beliefs feed into a core feature of political extremism, namely a desire to make sense of societal events through a set of clear-cut assumptions about the world.” This impulse is exacerbated by the tendency of many to cut themselves off from news and opinion sources that differ from their own.

So if you’re convinced that the world’s solutions could be easily solved if everyone simply fell in line with your self-evidently correct beliefs, it’s a puzzle as to why this doesn’t simply happen. Many people, it seems, conclude that the most likely answer involves a massive conspiracy of some sort.

Sure, these theories are usually a bizarre hybrid of complexity and simple-mindedness. But for some, it’s easier to believe them than accept the reality that the world is more complicated, and less predictable, than you are willing to admit.